Failing the Future

The next-gen crisis: are we failing to discover, develop and retain the diversity of talent required to be the next marketing leaders?

So hot is the issue of talent development and diversity that Campaign had no trouble luring business leaders out of the Cannes sunshine and into a private dining room at the Carlton Hotel to chew it over during the recent Lions Festival of Creativity.

"The fear is that we are heading towards a homogenous and dwindling talent pool of people equipped to lead in an increasingly global and digital world," said Andrew Warner of Monster, Campaign’s partner in the debate.

The digital economy was expected to democratise career structures, but, in fact, he suggested, flatter organisations provide less scaffolding for progression. And a high percentage of women fall out of tech careers in their thirties.

"It’s not just women. Colour, race, gender, social background and age are all under-represented," added Thinkbox’s Lindsey Clay. "Differences make output strong," said HMG’s Darren Goldie. "I always recruit for attitude and then develop talent."

Digitalisation brings challenges to more traditional businesses too. "I have people with marketing degrees who are not equipped," said HSBC’s Amanda Rendle. Agencies also face a huge challenge, said Maxus’s Richard Stokes. "We bring people in to do specific tech jobs but how are they going to develop into the leaders of tomorrow?"

Some businesses, such as Expedia, aim to transfer skills like search optimisation via lunchtime masterclasses. "It’s OK not to know," said Andrew Cocker. "And it’s OK to learn."The skill set required these days is incredibly demanding," said Stephen Maher. "You’ve got to be good at tech and data, as well as conceptual and creative and also a brilliant leader and presenter."

If such talent is to be attracted to marketing as a career, "we all have a responsibility for it not to be that small thing sat in the corner," said Clear Channel’s Sarah Speake."Marketing has lost some of its sizzle," admitted Chesters. "It’s cobblers’ children going barefoot. How appalling we are at marketing ourselves. "We need to be more intelligent and flexible and interesting in the people that we recruit and where we find them."

In conversation

Clockwise from bottom left:
Charlotte McEleny , moderator; digital editor, Marketing (not pictured); Kevin Chesters , executive planning director, Mcgarrybowen; Sarah Speake , chief marketing officer, Clear Channel; Andrew Warner , vice-president, marketing, Europe, Monster; Rachel Bristow , director of client partnerships and collaboration, Sky; Stephen Maher , chairman, MBA and chair, Marketing Society; Richard Stokes , chief development officer, Maxus; Gary Raucher , global head of marketing, TomTom; Darren Goldie , managing partner, HMG Consulting; Amanda Rendle , global head of marketing, business-to-business, HSBC; Lauren Crampsie , global chief marketing officer, Ogilvy & Mather; Lindsey Clay , chief executive, Thinkbox and president, Wacl (not pictured); Andrew Cocker , senior marketing director, Expedia (not pictured)

"There’s unconscious bias. Research shows likeability and leadership are negatively correlated in women and positively in men" - Lindsey Clay

"Most agencies are too male, too white and too young. We’ve recruited like-minded individuals" - Kevin Chesters

"The language used – like ‘code ninjas’ – and the beer-and-pizza culture seem to be alienating women in digital" - Andrew Warner

"Attitude and mindset are most crucial [in recruiting]. Training can come later" - Gary Raucher

“As I am one, I can say this: we give millennials way too much room to be arseholes” - Lauren Crampsie

"The new generation is technically brilliant, but how can we develop leadership in them? Can they navigate a company or sell an idea?" - Amanda Rendle

"Not enough organisations provide flexibility to suit women or invest sufficiently in training and development – for both sexes" - Sarah Speake

"No-one has enough time to find out who’s available. Recruitment is done in a rush" - Rachel Bristow

Cocker (left) and McEleny